Welcome to Camp Cocktail!
You probably noticed that last week I failed to post a Fancy Coffee Friday installation, and like much of my writing, I had every intention of hammering out some thoughts. However, those thoughts were pushed to the side due to events of a very busy week and having to prepare Camp Cocktail for a weekend on the road with friends. The core of our group of happy campers has been venturing off to fields and forests together for over 20 years, we’ve acquired some new members over the years, but most of us have been camping, cooking, drinking, debating, and laughing together for over two decades. If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.
Last weekend’s adventure was prompted by many years of our Swedish friend E asking to head to Door County. She and her husband, T, have lived here in the USA nearly 10 years and they’d yet to head up to “The Door”. So, remembering her request, I laid on the guilt of “Remember in our planning, everyone, that E has been asking to camp in Door County for years now. I think it’s high time we finally did it.” E and T were the first to select and book a site at Potawatomi State Park and the rest of us followed suit.
Mr Muse and I were the first on scene last Thursday, even after stopping at my parents’ house to do some computer trouble-shooting. Camp was quickly set up (because with the teardrop camper, set-up takes less than 10 minutes including parking the camper) and just as we were stepping back to admire the newest iteration of Camp Cocktail, friends B & D pulled past, with silly waving on all parts, and we headed off to the park store to get some firewood.* After the arrival of everyone else, we discussed the first major decision: whose campsite would be “base camp”? This is not a terribly serious decision, but an important one, as “base camp” is where all the activities happen – even of the major activity of the weekend is sitting by the campfire reading. Yes, that happens; yes, there are photos to prove it.
The next major decision was “What are we doing all weekend?” The short answer: hiking, wineries, distilleries, and who knows what else!
Friday morning found us all at the picnic tables of Base Camp, having our breakfasts or coffees, and planning the day. Since we’re all spent 4-6 hours of driving the day before, getting out and moving was priority number one. A suggestion to have lunch at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant was also made. So, we loaded into two vehicles and worked our way north, stopping at Peninsula State Park and hiking 4+ miles. After having worked up an appetite on our hike, we headed north again towards Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay. Yes, it does have goats on the roof.
Our bellies full of food, I mentioned that we couldn’t possibly go all the way to Door County with our friend E and NOT drive all the way to the tip of the peninsula in Gill’s Rock. E agreed, and we piled into vehicles again and headed further north-by-northeast and drove to the end of the peninsula; Washington Island, it was decided, would be saved for another adventure. After milling about the ferry dock and checking out the two gift shops full of things none of us needed, but plenty of things that made us laugh, we got back in the vehicles with our first adult beverage stop in mind: Island Orchard Cider. There were four ciders available for the standard tasting, Mr and I preferred the original recipe (Brut Apple Cider) over all the others, but they had a Pear Ginger Nitro cider as well that could be purchased by the glass. A very full tasting room, with more people coming through the door, had our group of 8 making our purchases and heading off to the next place we saw and that the lead vehicle turned into; that happened to be Orchard Country Winery & Market.
They had a nice set-up for tasting, a packed tasting room, as was their market, which was full of locally grown fruits and locally-made food products. We made our selections, were happy with the majority of what we tried and between the 8 of us: purchased 2 cases of wine. After loading up our goods, it was off to the next stop: Harbor Ridge Winery. Some of our party really liked their wines; I was not one of these people, though between Mr and I we found enough that we liked to get another half-case. The wine I liked best was one called Seven Seas which happens to be from Captain’s Walk Winery in Green Bay. However! Also, if you’re in the market for wine-, or adult-beverage, related gifts – this certainly would be a one-stop-shop. There were gadgets and gifts galore, and an almost endless display of fun signs.
The best part of Harbor Ridge Winery? Right next door is Wisconsin Cheese Masters where you can literally taste every single one of the cheeses they have in the case. No foolin’! The only cheese I wasn’t exactly thrilled about was one called “The Rattlesnake”, which was a habanero pepper cheddar with tequila. You’re supposed to smell the cheese first to pick up the tequila because once you pop the morsel in your maw – all bets of tasting anything else for the next hour are off. Every single one of us who tried this cheese ended up coughing. Too hot! My tongue felt like it had a chemical burn for a few hours afterwards. It was then back to the campground.
Cedric the Roaming Gnome found a friend at Scaturo’s!
Saturday met us with rain to start the day and those of our group who were going to cook breakfast over the campfire decided that they didn’t want to deal with the rain and we should all go to breakfast. Scaturo’s Baking Company and Café was picked and despite being gluten-free, I found plenty to eat (plus, the home-fries were safe). Everyone was satisfied with their selections and over-full in some cases, so it was off to Door Peninsula Winery and Door County Distillery. Having grown up not far from Door County, day trips were the norm and stopping at Door Peninsula Winery was usual and customary. Thing is, their wines have always been way too sweet for me, and they still are. That said, their sister company, Door County Distillery, is new and I was thoroughly impressed with most of what was tried. Mr and I selected the Gin, Bourbon, and – just because it was different, the Cherry Bluff Infusion bitters. The gin was very citrusy and I honestly would consider pouring a little bit over ice and sipping it on a hot summer’s day. The bourbon was good, and the Cherry Bluff Infusion bitters really caught me by surprise – so much so that we bought a bottle. Friends B & D also tried the: Vodka, Cherry Vodka, Apple Brandy, Cherry Brandy, and the Java Infusion. I got to sip each of those and I really liked everything except the plain Vodka. The distillery also had some Bourbon-infused Walnut Caramel Milk Chocolate fudge. I bought a quarter pound of it to take with us.
We wrapped up there and then ventured to Door 44 Winery, sister company to Parallel 44 Winery, and we shouldered our way into another packed tasting room. The wines there are good. Really good, so after trying our 5 wines, plus 1 bonus wine, and then a separate sample of their ice wine, we headed out to the vehicle with another six bottles. It was then off to the 26th Annual Classic & Wooden Boat Festival at the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay which six of our eight wanted to check out. I’d never gone to the museum before and while the two who weren’t interested made themselves comfortable outside, the rest of us went in and checked out the facts on shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay. There were a ton of model ships, lots of stories, and I’m glad we went in to check it out while attending the boat festival. The festival itself, at least the part where you get to see the boats and not venture onto the midway area, was small but the watercraft were beautiful. We talked to a lot of people who displayed their handmade boats, canoes, and kayaks, and it was nice to see people so enthusiastic about their hobby.
After watching the SikaFlex Challenge, and ensuing destruction of the boats made, we headed across the street to Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria for a cold beverage and some food. We were all happy with our beverages which the exception of the Banana Margarita (yes, weird…. that’s why it was ordered) which was not really banana-y at all. Those of us who ordered pizza (they have gluten free pizza crusts!!) all enjoyed our selections, though, T wasn’t going to rate his deep-fried-crust “Montanara Style” pie as “excellent”. The crust was “too greasy”, but still good for flavor. It was then back to the campground where our carload headed to the tower at the park and climbed up, quads burning, to get a view of the harbor area. We made our way back down and piled back in the car to take “the scenic route” back to the campsite, circling through the north half of the park.
Sunday morning dawned quiet, our tent-camping friends having broken camp, packed up, and heading out by 7:30 as they typically do, while those of us not sleeping on the ground made a bit more leisurely time of things. Mr and I enjoyed our fruit and yogurt, our caffeinated beverages of choice, and as we chatted with B & D about plans, we were startled from our conversation by the blood-curdling scream of a young girl who was climbing the escarpment a couple sites over. It finally dawned on me that she was screaming, “SNAKE!”, and we laughed and then noticed she’d abandoned her little brother of about 3 years of age where she tucked tail and ran. Thankfully, their mom was near and after rescuing her son, she headed back up to snap a photo of the offending snake. We laughed. Then we headed out to get in some hiking before we were stuck in the vehicle for another 4+ hours for the ride home.
To wrap up what has become a lengthy post, this was a great weekend. There were very few mosquitoes in the park because all of the rain hitting the state kept breaking up before it got to them, no-see-ums, however, were a different story and I have a collection of bites ringing around my ankles. We restocked our wine rack, got some fudge, saw new things, finally got to Door County for E, and most importantly, we spent time with friends-who-are-family. I think right there is the best thing about the whole weekend.
*The Wisconsin State Park system took a hit in the budget under the current administration – support your state parks!
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